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How Providers Can Apply Consumer Informatics to Improve Delivery of Care 

Amazon just last week hosted its annual Prime Day event, offering consumers deals on a plethora of products, from gaming and security systems to smart speakers and clothing. Now the company has to fulfill the more strategic — and complicated — part of its promotion: quickly delivering all the items purchased. 

A successful delivery impacts numerous transactions, whether physical or verbal. For example, a speech offering valuable information probably isn’t too beneficial to listeners if words are garbled or spoken too softly. The best speakers utilize the right combination of content, volume and emotion to convey their message. 

Delivery is a central concept in consumer health informatics (CHI), which analyzes information needs of consumers and develops, tests and implements strategies. Why? To deliver healthcare information to consumers. 

Consumer health informatics isn’t a new idea, but it’s gaining popularity once again. Individuals are increasingly using technology to access and store health information, not simply counting on their healthcare provider for it. It’s one of the reasons healthcare consumerism is at an all-time high. 

Primary CHI Points of View 

One of the most prominent definitions of consumer health informatics, also sometimes referred to as clinical informatics, is from the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA). AMIA’s working definition for the field of CHI is “a subspecialty of medical informatics which studies from a patient/consumer perspective the use of electronic information and communication to improve medical outcomes and the healthcare decision-making process.” 

Perhaps a simpler explanation of CHI is that it’s health informatics from the point of view of a consumer. Used to integrate consumers’ preferences into health/medical information systems, it examines patient information from points of view such as health literacy, consumer knowledge and education and patient informatics. 

Health Literacy 

The first of these points of view, health literacy, refers to the degree to which consumers have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic information needed to make healthcare decisions. In CHI, health literacy can be addressed by presenting select online resources to increase patient understanding. It reaches consumers by using a technology — the Internet — they’ll most likely access anyway. 

Consumer Knowledge and Education 

Consumer knowledge and education is fairly self-explanatory. In CHI, these areas further divide health information systems into categories that do one of three things:

  • Provide health information to the user (one-way communication)
  • Tailor specific information to the user’s unique situation (customized communication)
  • Allow the user to communicate and interact with healthcare providers or other users (two-way communication).

Patient-Focused Informatics

This type of CHI includes strategies such as predicting various elective procedures associated with a given treatment or recommending various interventions be made or precautions be delivered to prevent future ailments. Also in the prediction category of patient-focused informatics is forecasting the level and type of information required to support a given treatment and prognosticating a patient’s treatment schedules based on his or her systems and basic measurements. 

CHI in Practice 

The primary goal of CHI — to empower patients while giving them the knowledge they need to make their own health decisions — can be achieved by:

  • Promoting self-care/management and healthy behaviors
  • Making health data and services more accessible
  • Providing information to consumers
  • Promoting peer information exchange
  • Utilizing healthcare technology that focuses on patients as the primary users of health data

There are a bevy of technology tools that enable consumers to manage their own health. When designed properly, these applications interact directly with the consumer — with or without the presence of healthcare professionals. How they’re used can be affected by numerous factors, including gender, educational level and technology skillset.

Some categories of CHI applications consist of:

  • Apps facilitating knowledge and understanding of disease management
  • Apps facilitating the knowledge of observations of daily living (ODLs)
  • Apps facilitating and promoting lifestyle management assistance
  • Apps facilitating patient health, preventative care and self-care/assisted care.

Whatever the technology tool, it should be consumer-facing and interactive. It should easily enable retrieval of further information initiated by the consumer, data that’s tailored for each individual or consumer group. 

CHI Perks for Patients and Providers

In summary, the use of consumer health informatics should provide patients with data and tools they can use to drive self-care and share with healthcare professionals. Applying CHI to various areas of healthcare can help consumers make more informed decisions, more easily find other individuals with similar concerns and better navigate the healthcare system and its services. 

For providers, CHI tools help more successfully deliver quality healthcare and reduce errors, thereby decreasing overall cost of care. These clinicians benefit from having accurate, up-to-date and individualized digital health data that informs treatment, improvises care coordination and saves some time in their already busy schedule. 

At Epion Health, our scalable digital health solutions help healthcare provider organizations of all sizes provide anytime, anywhere care that drives greater efficiency, engagement and revenue. Get in touch with us to learn more!